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The Journey from Shelter to Unification

Southwest Key Programs / Shelters  / The Journey from Shelter to Unification

At each of our shelters, we provide a safe, temporary home for unaccompanied minors and work to efficiently determine a safe next step for the minor.

Within 24-hours of arrival, a minor is assigned a case manager who collaborates with family members to identify a suitable sponsor for the minor. If a family member can’t be found and approved, case managers work to find a non-familial sponsor or assist minors in speaking to an attorney about their legal options.

“It’s a great feeling, helping the kids that come into our shelter, knowing that once they come through our doors we will work to find them a safe home” Martha, Case Manager, Phoenix, AZ

The majority of those in our care are connected with sponsors within 35 days. But some cases take longer, because we always put the safety of the minors first.

Before a minor is placed with an appropriate, vetted sponsor, who may be a relative they haven’t seen in many years, we follow standardized policies and procedures outlined by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

That can include background checks, fingerprinting of the sponsor and, in some cases, a home visit. We often request documents, like birth certificates, to verify relationships. Our staff arranges calls with family members to begin the process of reintroducing children who’ve not had contact with a parent or sponsor in years. Throughout the process, case managers meet with minors weekly, updating them on their case and working diligently to move the process forward.

In some instances, case managers go through the investigative process several times if a sponsor does not pass our screening, cannot produce appropriate documents or stops communicating with our staff. When this happens, case managers work closely with the minor to ensure they are informed of developments and encouraged to keep a positive attitude, while a new discharge plan is drafted.

“Sometimes cases last longer. We are that safety net for these kids, and we let them know this process exists for a reason. You’re meant to be with somebody who is going to protect you, help you get an education and keep up with court dates so you can succeed in the U.S.” Cheyenne, Case Manager, Phoenix, AZ

As a final step, we coordinate travel arrangements with sponsors and, in some cases, staff escorts minors until they reach their new home city.

Our shelters are not the destination for those who enter our doors. They are meant to be comfortable, temporary homes where children in uncertain circumstances can enjoy normalcy, community and compassion. No matter the length of stay, each and every one of those we care for are treated with respect and made to feel as comfortable as possible.